pests

Early Blooms and Bugs

By Lina Younes

Due to the mild spring, many bulbs and flowering plants have been blooming early.

In our area, forsythia and bulbs were the first to make their appearance. Azalea bushes that normally bloom around Mother’s Day already peaked several weeks ago. Even rose bushes have some breathtaking flowers earlier than usual. As I was taking a walk, I couldn’t resist capturing the moment through some pictures which I’m sharing with you.

Unseasonably mild temperatures have also ushered the early arrival of other living creatures to our neighborhoods: bugs. While we welcome beneficial insects, especially pollinators such as butterflies and bees, we will not be putting out the welcoming mat for pests such as ants, termites, ticks and mosquitoes. Special measures will be needed to control biting insects that can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Our web pages indicate which insect repellents are most effective in controlling specific biting insects. When using insect repellents or any pesticide products, always remember to read the label first.

So, as you’re getting your garden ready for the planting season, adopt greenscaping practices to attract beneficial insects. By planting the right native trees, plants and shrubs you’ll create an inviting environment for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Any gardening projects in the making? Please share your ideas with us.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Flowering Journey

By Vanessa Trafas

When I began my search for the perfect internship in Washington DC I already knew where I wanted to work. EPA was the perfect opportunity for what I wanted to do. And, so, it was to be. I remember my first day at the Office of the Pesticide Programs in the communications branch. I was so excited I arrived an hour early. The only thing that worried me was whether or not the people I was going to work with would be friendly and open to me as an intern.

In the beginning I lacked the confidence to ask my coworkers if they needed help. But, as the weeks went by I became more and more in rhythm with the way the office worked. The turning point in my internship was when I was asked to sit in on a meeting about EPA’s role in the Philadelphia Flower Show. This meeting set the mood for the rest of my internship.

I spent the next several weeks working on a project for the Philadelphia Flower Show, searching for pictures of beneficial insects and other information for a slideshow presentation. The EPA display educated people about innovative and safe ways to control pests. In working on this project I made connections with many experts in other branches at the Pesticides Office and worked closely with coworkers to prepare the best presentation. The teamwork gave me the opportunity to learn about the wide array of issues the office deals with. The culmination of this project presented me with the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia to show the result of my work.

Meeting everyone who put so much time into the Show made me recognize the magnitude of my contribution and appreciate all the work that the Pesticide Office puts into educating people about safe pesticide use. It is clear that EPA wants to help people understand there are safe ways to controls pests. . Our goal was to provide people at the flower show with information on IPM in gardening, insect repellents, and other tips to protect against vector-borne diseases. Show attendees were able to ask questions about gardening and safe pest control.

I greatly miss the work and learned many valuable lessons from people at EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. I am thankful for such a rewarding experience and this internship has given me confidence going forward in the future. I hope someday that I can give back and help an intern with a rewarding and motivating experience.

And did I mention that the EPA display won the Best in Show for Non-Academic Education? Others must have noticed our enthusiasm for safe pest control too.

About the author: Vanessa Trafas interned in the communications branch of the Office of the Pesticide Programs from January to March 2012. She is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz where she studied both Business Management Economics and Environmental Studies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How the 3R’s Can Make a Healthier Home

By Lina Younes

I don’t know about you, but it takes me forever to put away all the holiday decorations once the festivities are over. While all my family members are eager to put up the Christmas tree and decorations right after Thanksgiving, I just don’t find the same number of enthusiastic helpers available at the beginning of the new year. When I finally came around to putting the decorations away, I realized that I had to do more to remove the clutter and start the overall process of having a healthier home environment.

When I embarked on this project to get some order at home, I decided to break it down by room because otherwise the task seemed overwhelming. I enlisted my youngest to help me clean up the toy room first to recycle or donate many of those objects that were just sitting neglected in a pile.

Then, I decided to apply the same rule in the kitchen. What were the items that we used the most? What are those items that are more seasonal or can be stored for use at a later date? What items can be donated to Good Will? As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, reducing clutter is a great way to implementing Integrated Pest Management practices and keep the pests away.

Then, I tackled my youngest daughter’s room. She had definitely outgrown many clothes that were still in perfectly good condition. There were some good coats and jackets that will definitely keep a child warm this winter. Then I went through my closet to find some things that I have been holding on for years. Those items definitely could be used by someone else so they were classified under “items to be donated” as well.

While organizing, I found several old cell phones in drawers. You can either donate them to some non-profit organizations or recycle them.  There are precious metals and plastics in those phones that can be recycled and turned into new products. That way they don’t end up in a landfill.

So, do you have any plans to make your home healthier? We would like to hear from you. If you want to take a glimpse as how you can protect the air quality in your home, visit our virtual house for some tips.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Keeping the Pests Away

By Lina Younes

Recently, I had a bug infestation in my pantry. Nope. I’m not talking about cockroaches, ants or rodents. There were numerous small beetle-like bugs attacking foods like flour, dry cereals, and even boxed pasta products. I was surprised to see the infestation given the fact that I’ve always strived to abide by integrated pest management practices. Didn’t think that this was happening in our household!

My husband’s immediate reaction was to suggest spraying the whole place with an insecticide to get rid of the bugs. I agreed with discarding those products that seemed to be the focus of the infestation, but I didn’t want to spray an area that would be in contact with food. I didn’t want insecticide residues to remain in my pantry long after the spraying. So, I set aside several hours to empty the pantry completely. I discarded all the cereals and flour-based products in bags and boxes. I cleaned the pantry thoroughly to get rid of any crumbs or remnants of those unwanted critters. Then, I put the canned goods back in. Any new cereals or flour-based products were placed in plastic or glass containers before going in the pantry.

There are simple tips on how to prevent pests from entering your home. If you’ve eliminated the sources of food, water and shelter first, it is unlikely that they will seek refuge in your home. However, if you’ve taken preventive measures and they still become a nuisance, then you should apply low-risk pesticides properly. Remember that using more is not always better, Cleanliness and these simple steps can go a long way to keep your home pest-free.

So, it’s been several weeks since the get-rid-of-the-bugs operation. I’m happy to report that the pantry is still bug-free. Have you had a similar bug attack? How have you eliminated these unwanted creatures? Send us your comments. We would like to know.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as the Multilingual Communications Liaison. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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More Is Not Always Better

How many times have you seen a cockroach in your home and attempted to spray an entire can of bug killer to get rid of all cockroaches once and for all? How many times of you seen a little field mouse venture into your home and resorted to using tons of rat poison to eliminate any possible infestation from here to the end of time? How many times have you used excessive amounts of cleaners in an attempt to make things cleaner and brighter? Well, the reality is that more is not always better. In fact, excessive use of pesticides or household cleaners can be counterproductive and even put your entire family at risk.

One basic principle for using pesticides and household cleaners safely is to read the label first!  By reading the product label, you will get the necessary information to use the product properly and minimize exposure to these chemicals. Furthermore, the label provides first aid information in the event of an accidental poisoning.

While I have made the point of reading the label when using pesticide products, I wasn’t aware of the need to follow the label’s instructions with the same care when using other common soaps and household products. In fact, I recently watched a program that illustrated how excessive amounts of laundry detergent actually produced the opposite effect by leaving cloths dingy from too much soap. Excessive soap could also produce soap scum in some washing machines which, unfortunately, serves as a breeding ground for bacteria. The consumer show also stressed the need to read the instructions manual for the household appliance to maximize use and efficiency. Similar guidelines also apply when using other appliances such as dishwashers.

Therefore, emptying an entire container of pesticides will not keep the pests at bay. Good integrated pest management practices will.

So, why not start today?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Eliminating Pests Without Poisons

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

As I was getting ready to go to work, I was listening to the gardening segment
on the local news radio station. The announcer was giving advice on how to eliminate those unwanted critters that might invade the home to escape from the winter cold without having to use toxic substances. He recommended using mouse traps, for example, instead of fumigating or using rat poison.

As I listened to his useful tips, I realized that he was basically advocating for Integrated Pest Management,
a practice that here at EPA we highly recommend,

Without having to use toxic chemicals, you can prevent pests from seeking refuge in your home if you create an environment that is not pleasing to them. How, you may ask? Well, basically, be a very inhospitable host. What do I mean by that? Well, don’t give them any food to eat, nothing to drink, and no shelter! I know we wouldn’t welcome these pests knowingly, but frankly, when we leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight, or leave water for our pets overnight, or even let water accumulate under our plant pots or around the home, or we have a cluttered home, we are extending an open invitation to the unwanted critters!!! Why do I mention clutter like newspapers, bags, boxes, etc., because you don’t want to create the perfect hiding place for them nor their relatives….

So, even if you follow these steps and you get a visit from an unwanted guest like these pests, consider using baits and traps so you can keep toxics out of your home. Keep a healthy home for you, your family, as well as your pets.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Elimine las plagas sin usar venenos

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Mientras me preparaba para ir al trabajo, escuchaba el segmento de jardinería en la estación de radio noticiosa local. El locutor estaba dando consejos sobre cómo eliminar esos animalitos indeseados que suelen invadir su casa para escaparse del frío invernal sin tener que usar sustancias tóxicas. Recomendaba usar ratoneras, por ejemplo, en lugar de fumigar o usar veneno de ratas.

Al escuchar sus conejos útiles, me di cuenta que básicamente estaba abogando a favor del plan para el Manejo Integrado de Plagas, una práctica que aquí en la EPA recomendamos firmemente.

Sin tener que usar sustancias químicas tóxicas, usted puede evitar que las plagas busquen refugio en su hogar al crea un entorno que no sea agradable para ellas. ¿Y, cómo lo haría? Pues, básicamente, sea un anfitrión inhospitalario. ¿Y, a qué me refiero? Bueno, no le dé ni una miga que comer, ni una gota de beber ni le provea albergue! Sé que normalmente no le brindamos la bienvenida a estas plagas a sabiendas, pero francamente, cuando dejamos los trastes sucios en el fregadero por la noche, cuando dejamos el agua para las mascotas por extensas horas disponible, o dejamos que el agua se acumule en los tiestos o alrededor del hogar, o si tenemos muchos papeles amontonados, estamos llamando a gritos a las plagas e invitando estos animales no deseados! ¿Por qué menciono los periódicos, cajas, bolsas amontonadas en particular? Porque usted no quiere crear el refugio perfecto para que las plagas vengan con sus familiares…

Por ende, si sigue estos consejos y todavía recibe una vista de una de estas plagas no deseadas, considere usar cebos y trampas para mantener las sustancias tóxicas fuera del hogar. La protección de su familia está en sus manos. Tampoco se olvide de las mascotas. Hay que cuidarlas también.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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